Image by Rezwan

Overcrowded passenger ferry capsized in the Padma River in Munshiganj, Bangladesh

The World Cup Goal-E Project

This street in Bangladesh has a colorful world cup celebration

New Chum Hill Ruins

Remnants of Kiandra gold mine at New Chum Hill, #nsw #australia

May 31, 2007

Picture of the day

Himmels Pagoda (Temple of Heaven): A restaurant in Berlin

May 29, 2007

Pageflakes pagecasts: the 100000 feed strong metagator

After the recent addition of pagecasts feature Pageflakes announces that its users have created 100000 pagecasts for its metagator. Pageflakes CEO Dan Cohen informs:
"Pagecasting" is the intersection of personalized pages with social media. Unlike existing social media such as blogs and podcasts, virtually anyone can use Pageflakes to easily and quickly mashup a multimedia page with interactive Flakes that will enable them to express themselves and interact with others in a powerful new way - including, of course, blogs, podcasts, videos, photos and more. Over 100,000 Pagecasters – a prolific subset of our much larger and rapidly growing Pageflakes user base – are enriching the lives of millions of Internet users around the world."
The cool thing is the tagging feature. For an example if you search by tag Bangladesh you can get all the Bangladesh related Pageflakes personalized (shared) pages.

There are numerous possibilities of how users can create and use these features. Using the group feature a group of users can create shared pages and do some more interactive things like editing other's pages.

It may not be far when we will see these personalized Web 2.0 pages of Pageflakes entwined with more enriched blogging feature and social networking features like twitter or facebook. These pages will be the virtual alter ego of the owners.

May 24, 2007

One Valerie Taylor

Many Bangladeshis regard Valerie Taylor as someone similar to Mother Teresa.

She founded a Rehabilitation Centre for Paralysed Patients (RCPP) in 1979 which was later renamed as Centre for the Rehabilitation of the Paralysed (CRP). For the last 27 years CRP is renowned for treatment, training, education, and rehabilitation for the disabled people in Bangladesh.

Now there are some annoying news that the management wants Valerie out of CRP. Angelmorn has details.

Here is an online petition protesting the corruption and cruel treatment with Valerie Taylor & C.R.P. Please sign it. (Via Mahbub Sumon)

The reactions of the Bangladeshi Blogosphere is overwhelming. I have seen many blogs and discussion groups spreading the news and urging to sign online petitions. Some bloggers in Germany are arranging for a visit to the German chapter of CRP.

Breaking: A blog created for Valerie informs:
In a televised news of ATN and NTV, a source from CRP has reported that Valerie has been reinstated to CRP with full authority.
Thanks everybody who supported the protests.

May 23, 2007

1971 liberation war and the role of Indian army

The Bangladesh liberation war is an epic itself. The atrocities of Pakistani Army were countered and fought by Mukti Bahini (freedom fighters) initially in March 1971 and in the later stage (in December) Indian Army engaged in the war directly. Although India trained Mukti Bahini and provided arms from much earlier.

Now there are certain quarters in Bangladesh who try to ignore India's contributions and some think that it was India's game plan to divide Pakistan, their arch rivals. And interestingly there are some quarters in India who thinks that it was Indian army's might alone that liberated Bangladesh. Mukti Bahini and the civilians had little role to play.

I would urge both the quarters to read a real freedom fighters tale. Shah Zaman Mozumder explains the role of Indian army in Bangladesh:
From the month of September, the Indian army gradually started to participate directly in the Liberation War. Initially the support was limited to indirect fire support (artillery support) to Mukti Bahini units. From November, the Indian army was permitted to conduct operations up to 10 miles inside Bangladesh territory. This was to clear Pakistan army positions from the borders areas in preparation for the December war.

The final war in December was primarily fought by the Indian army units. The Mukti Bahini units were responsible to provide second tier support to the Indian formations.

I feel ashamed at our ungratefulness as a nation. Is it not possible to acknowledge the Indian martyrs during our victory celebrations —those who sacrificed their lives in the foreign soil of Bangladesh? Are we afraid that acknowledging Indian assistance will make our contributions less significant?

India did not give us freedom. India helped in our freedom struggle and as a self respecting nation we must acknowledge that.

I don't think that will overshadow the contributions (the deserving ones) of others.
Now another controversy is brewing in India about who ordered the final march towards Dhaka that led to the surrender of Pakistan army. Praveen Swami writes in the Hindu that it was then Chief of Staff of the Eastern Command, Major-General J.F.R. Jacob's decision rather than a direct order of Army Chief Sam 'Bahadur' Manekshaw.

Niraj explains:
Soon after deciding to enter the fray, the Indian Army’s initial goal was to capture and secure the western half of Bangladesh (then East Pakistan). Any further advancement could have led to a Pakistani counterattack towards India's borders. It didn't matter in the end. Both the United States and China, after some sabre-rattling, did not interfere as first feared; and the Indian Army made better then expected progress on the ground, so the decision to capture Dhaka was almost an afterthought.
This can be verified by the official archive of the Bangladesh War, 1971, which is still classified by the Indian government.

May 22, 2007

Picture of the day

At the cemetery (in Werder). Here we will sit and remember you.

Frequently asked questions to people who criticize the Caretaker Government of Bangladesh

A great masterpiece by Asif Saleh of Drishtipat in the Daily Star. Some excerpts:
"We speak out because we love our country and the people who serve our country honorably. Our cheering and our finger pointing is driven by the government actions and it is all because of a common interest of seeing what is best for our dear homeland named Bangladesh.

Just one request: please don't term us "anti-state" because the government won't like what we say. Stopping the information flow is not the way to deal with criticism but rather by changing the minds with transparent actions, one can convert the people from being critics to cheerleaders."

May 21, 2007

Bangla (Band) is performing in Germany

Amader Gaan reports:
Folk fusion band Bangla's growing international popularity reached a new height as they got the honor to perform in a concert in Germany with one of the biggest icons in world music, Bono, the lead singer of U2. The concert titled 'Your Voice Against Poverty' will take place on June 7th in Rostock, Germany and is organized by an anti-poverty movement with the help of Bono. The Band will also perform at Halle (near Leipzig) on the 1st of June.
The concert at Halle is sponsored by Netz Bangladesh, a German NGO dedicated to reducing poverty in Bangladesh.

You can listen to some of Bangla's music from here.

Dr. Yunus in Berlin

I met Dr. Muhammad Yunus today in Berlin. He was here in the SPD office Willy-Brandt House at Wilhelmstrasse for a reception of the local Bangladeshis (Photo: Yunus with an organizer).

This is his second visit to Germany in this month. He is here to attend the preparatory meetings of the G8 summit to be held next month. Chancellor Angela Merkel, leading the German presidency of this summit is trying to do something for the women of Africa. She has invited Dr. Yunus to share his experience of working with the economic development of women.

Dr. Yunus delivered his speech in his trademark fashion. He spoke about his work, Grameen bank and nobel prize. I have read or heard a lot on these issues. The new thing I had learnt that the beggar loan scheme was an experiment to prove that every human being is an entrepreneur at heart, many of them do not get the chance to explore it.

I was waiting for the question and answer session. The current issues with him came up. He avoided the answer why he had retracted himself from politics. He said that he had discussed about it to the press, he has nothing more to add. Answering a question he said that he initially supported the 22nd January Election because he thought not having election in time would create more chaos in the country.

He refuted the claims about high interest rates of Grameen Bank by saying that the figures of 30% or 50% are only rumors. There are four types of loan programs in Grameen Bank. Capital for making these loans are collected from the deposits of these loan takers. These people also have separate accounts where they deposit their savings. They earn interest @ 8-12% depending on schemes. On an average the cost of capital for Grameen Bank is 10%. The loan programs are as follows:

1) Housing loan - 7% interest per annum (less than cost of capital)
2) Education loan - no interest while a student - after that 5% interest (less than the cost of capital)
3) Loan for beggars - no interest
4) Other loan schemes - maximum 20% interest pa.

Dr. Yunus said that the 10% interest in addition to the cost of capital is mainly to cover the loss in other loan programs. He said that in contrary to public belief he is not the owner of Grameen Bank. Rather the loan taker women own and run the band through a board where he is an adviser. When he proposed that whether he should cut the high interest rate (Govt. sector average 15%, private sector average 18%) and lower the interest on their deposits as well they refused. They said that they will be able to bear this much interest rate.

Around 100 Bangladeshis were among the crowd. It was again proved that he can enthrall the audience with his charismatic speech.

May 20, 2007

Why headline matters?

"On average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest. This is the secret to the power of the headline, and why it so highly determines the effectiveness of the entire piece."
Copy Blogger has details on how to write magnetic headlines.

Hat tip: David Sasaki.


* Read Bangla in websites.

* Bangla computing: Language processing.

* Useful Firefox add-ons.

* Unbeatable network tweaks to supercharge your web-experience.

* How to Install Windows Defender Final bypassing Genuine Windows Validation

* Top ten ways to promote yourself on Web 2.0.

Pageflakes: the number one personalized web page

I first found about Pageflakes about a year ago. Since then it has become sleeker and better.

For those who are new to it, its an Ajax-based personalized start page like the big boys, Google personalized webpages, My Yahoo and Windows Live. In this page you have hundreds of interesting Flakes (modules) to add. These Flakes contains your day-to-day requirements like reading email, Web search, subscribe and read RSS/Atom feeds, address book, dictionary, notes, calendar, weather forecast, social networking like del.icio.us bookmarks, flickr photos, video, radio and other user-created modules. You can simply embed Flakes in your personal blogs like this using the export function. Developers can create new modules for Pageflakes and these can be shared with others.

You can simply drag and drop these modules to your Pageflakes browser desktop. No complex configuration or coding is required. You can access it without registering but for accessing your customizations from different pcs you can simply register for free. It has a page publishing feature with that you can share your pages with other users. You can make it read only for shared users or let others modify some of your contents as an option. It has also a blog Flake which lets you to blog in your PF page. If you put your location details it will automatically offer you flakes with localized contents. You want help in customizing your Pageflakes page? Pageflakes CEO Dan Cohen explains this on video.

My inclination to Pageflakes is due to the fact that its 3 core developers are Bangladeshis. Its CTO is Omar Al Zabir Misho, whom I met in February 2006 in a Bangladeshi blogger meet. There are 18 Bangladeshis working for Pageflakes now.

And surprise..surprise. Pageflakes is also available in Bangla. Besides English it also offers German, Chiense and Portugese language versions.

Pageflakes is run by Pageflakes Ltd. Initially the company was privately funded and Benchmark Capital invested an undisclosed amount in May 2006 (wikipedia).

PC World has recently declared Pageflakes as the number one personalized web page.

So what are you waiting for? Make Pageflakes your own personalized startpage. You can set this up easily- just add http://www.pageflakes.com/:

i) In MS Internet Explorer: Tools--> Options-->Homepage
ii) In Mozilla Firefox browser: Tools--> Internet Options-->Homepage

And Voila, there you have it!

For an example of a customized startpage you can look at my page.

So how does it look? You can share your experiences, excitements, frustrations in the comments section.

May 19, 2007


Watched Mridul Chowdhury's documentary Deshantori (via Google Video). This is a docu-drama, which portrays the struggles of 26 Bangladeshis to illegally migrate to Spain through the Mediterranean Sea and Sahara desert. It starts with the illusions about the West of the common Bangladeshi youth.

Mezba did a review on this. Some excerpts:
The movie had a couple of quotes that I remember. For example, this girl chides her friend, "You are ready to get up at 6 in the morning and work hard all day once you reach London, yet today in Bangladesh you stay in bed till noon and then decry nothing is getting done in Bangladesh! It's not the country's fault that you are lazy!"

There was another. The professor rants about how Bengalis tend to have an inferiority complex where anything good is foreign and anything bad is homegrown. This same professor also asks "whose fault is it that people choose an uncertain death abroad over a certain life in Bangladesh".
This documentary tries to answer some of the questions.

Richard McInnes likely to be Bangladesh's cricket coach

Richard McInnes, an Australian, has been the Australia cricket team's performance analyst and a senior cricket coach at Australia's Centre of Excellence in Brisbane. He also coached Bangladesh's under-19 cricket and guided them towards a plate title in Under 19 World Cup held in 2004. Bangladesh beat Australia to clinch that title.

This will be a good decision for the Bangladesh cricket board if they appoint McInnes as the successor of Dav Whatmore. McInnes knows many of the current national team players personally. I remember from an interview that he likes to see the emerging talents as complete cricketers. The under-19 team under him had to undergo English language training and other grooming side-by-side, something which other coaches may ignore. These cricketers are also ambassadors for Bangladesh so I wholeheartedly support McInnes.

More in India Times Cricket.

May 17, 2007

Now listening to

Click on the Sound on/off sign for live streaming. You can adjust your channels.

May 15, 2007

Cashing on breast-feed substitutes

"The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 1.5 million infants die around the world every year because they are not breastfed. Where water is unsafe a bottle-fed child is up to 25 times more likely to die as a result of diarrhoea than a breastfed child." - Baby Milk Action

Joanna Moorhead of the Guardian Unlimited writes an investigative report on Nestlé's aggressive marketing of its baby Milk Formula's in Bangladesh using loopholes in the international code for marketing baby formulas. She has noticed doctors using pens with Nestlé's emblemed logo or writing prescriptions in Nestle's pad.
"The code does not allow them direct access to mothers, she alleges, the companies have become adept at channelling their efforts into getting health workers on side."
Interestingly literatures on the benefits of breast feeding were not found in the clinics and hospital. And more that matters is parents are compelled into buying these expensive formulas as per the doctor's suggestion:
Nur has been fed on Lactogen from the outset, but his formula, she says, costs her and her husband Gias, who works in a mustard-dyeing factory, around 800 taka (£2) a week. And if that doesn't sound much, set it against the fact that Gias earns only £6 a week. "We can't afford it at all," says Happi, shaking her head. "The milk uses up all our money."
The report is worth a read.

Three decades ago (in 1977) the campaigners first called for a boycott of Nestlé because of its aggressive marketing of formula milk in the developing world. Organizations like the International Baby Food action Network are fighting for the cause since long. For more about the worlwide protests against Nestlé please check this out.

Whatmore on Bangladesh Cricket

The Bangladesh - India 3rd one day cricket match washed away because of heavy rain. Too bad for the thousands of spectators and millions of cricket lovers all over the world.

Dave Whatmore gives an insider's view of the Bangladesh cricketers in an interview. And he is damn right in many occasions. Some excerpts:
"When we start well we are much better. If we don't start that well, then it becomes a much bigger job to bring it back in line. This has happened very often. The ability is there, but sometimes it just clicks.

The cricketing world wants to see a strong Bangladesh Test team because it has naturally the ingredients in the country - the population, the interest, the money, it has all the prerequisites that you think they need to become a pretty decent team in time. How we get there is the question. We are a full member country, I don't think stripping it will help. What we need is assistance."
Read the rest.

May 14, 2007

Quote of the day

"Even if religion, caste, class and culture continue to divide the subcontinent, one thing is bound to continually unite them: the love of cricket."

- Expat blogger Tom of Bangladesh Barta after watching Bangladesh India 2nd One-Day match live in Mirpur Stadium, Dhaka.

May 12, 2007

Picture of the day

Pull the plug

Tasneem Khalil Freed at last

At about 11 PM Bangladesh time on the 11th of May Tasneem Khalil released by joint forces about 22 hours after being picked up. Drishtipat Blog has time line of events.

At last we have some press about Tasneem Khalil in Bangladesh. Bangladeshi news papers ran the story of his release. There was a silence during the day (in those few News papers who have midday publications)

* The New Age

* BDNews24.com

* The Daily Amader Shomoy

* The Daily Prothom Alo

Mahfuz Anam, the editor of his employer the Daily Star has released a press statement which says:
"I contacted the authorities concerned and was informed that him being questioned was not due to his journalistic work ...In fact, it was because of the contents of his [Tasneem] personal blog and some SMSs he had sent recently, where views were expressed which were completely his own and had nothing to do with his work at this paper."
So Mahfuz Anam disowned him. And he also said:
Following my discussions with the authorities and because of the caretaker government’s commitment to the policy of freedom of the media, it was agreed that he would be released tonight [Friday].
I, however could not find any report on Tasneem in the Daily Star. I may be worng.

My question is what was in his personal blog that led to his arrest? Most of his articles were published elsewhere.

Many Bangladeshi blogs have received anonymous comments (including one in my blog - yes I don't delete comments) which tried to say that Tasneem is engaged in subversive activities to the state and that is the reason for his detention. Well I don't know how our respected Mr. anonymous got this much of insider information of the Joint forces, but even if it is true should not it be notified to the press by the Joint forces? I mean people should not have any problem if well documented convictions are there. The problem is that we have seen instances of framing a few political leaders with false cases. In current situation (state of emergency) anyone can get picked up by the joined forces without citing any reason. Links with the foreign intelligence units or you name what can be discovered later to justify that. I am talking about possibilities not criticizing.

The Blog Herald says:
One of the great things regarding citizen journalism is the fact that ordinary individuals can inform anyone connected to cyberspace about the latest events happening in their part of the world.

Unfortunately it seems that certain governments do not fully appreciate dissenting viewpoints, and apparently in Bangladesh the authorities are out to intimidate these independent voices.

Although this story goes to show the world how the blogs (and media) working together can counter the forces of oppression, it should also remind those in the west that freedom of speech is not yet universal, not to mention how fortunate some of us are to live in nations promoting liberty throughout their societies.
Yes It was the voices of Blogs that could create a buzz for release of Tasneem Khalil. Many Bloggers at Bangla blogging platform "Bandh Bhanger Awaaj" suspended regular postings yesterday and declared that they will only write about Tasneem Khalil.

Thanks everybody for your support. Because of quick actions by the bloggers we could push this to media, some US congressmen and the Bangladesh Government. Pickled Politics was organizing a protest at Bangladeshi embassy London. Really remarkable how quickly Tasneem was released.

But the worrying thing we get from this is that he was arrested because of the contents of his personal blog. So Bloggers in Bangladesh are now in the focal point. This creates an enormous responsibility on the bloggers who should counter check their facts before writing anything as they will be under scrutiny. And still they should not be intimidated to tell the truth because they will always have people who support freedom of speech and are against oppression without documented conviction.

Update: A commenter (Jason Paz) in Global Voices post on Tasneem Khalil:
It is of the utmost importance that we ordinary bloggers speak out against the injustice done Tasneem Khalil. Each of us may only have a small readership, but the effect can be worldwide having an impact on Bangladeshi officials.

Oppressors thrive picking off individuals in the darkness of night.
We want them to know the whole world is watching.
We want their kids to confront them over breakfast. “Daddy, did you do this?”
Salute to this spirit.

May 11, 2007

Spread the news: Free Tasneem Khalil

I wrote about Tasneem in the Technorati wtf (Where's the fire section).

Please click on the link and vote for it so that it remains on the top of the list for more amplification.

Breaking News: Journalist Blogger Tasneem Khalil arrested

I am appalled by the arrest of Bangladeshi Journalist and Blogger Tasneem Khalil by the Joint Forces. Reports have been coming that he was picked up by the joint forces from his house at around midnight. They have taken away his cell phone and passport. There is a state of emergency in Bangladesh and probably Tasneem became victim because he raised questions against the extra judicial killings of the joint forces. Here is his blog where you can read many of his articles. (Photo with his wife)

Tasneem is an editorial assistant of the Daily Star , a popular news daily in Bangladesh. He is also the representative of CNN and Human Rights Watch in Bangladesh.

Mash elaborates:
"Apparently Mr. Khalil’s crime is that he did his job. He spoke truthfully about the current situation in Bangladesh. He was interviewed by Nora Boustany of the Washington Post last month - that interview may have cost him his freedom and now possibly his life.

I have been speaking out over the last month about the military takedown of the democratic system in Bangladesh. One by one the fundamental rights of Bangladeshis have been taken away. But, Bangladeshis have recently started to fight back against the military. The press, the people and the courts have begun speaking out. The military now aims to silence them. Their thuggery is now plain to see.

Do not let Tasneem Khalil be "disappeared" into darkness. He is one of the brightest lights in Bangladeshi journalism and today, this minute, his life is in danger. Other reporters in Bangladesh are currently living in fear."
I condemn this. Lets spread the news. Tasneem has to be saved.

Other Bangladeshi Blogs joining hands in protest:

* Unheard Voices: Drishtipat group Blog

* Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying

* Keep Me Honest

* Salam Dhaka

* My Dear Bangladesh

* Adda

* Serious Golmal

* Voice of Bangladeshi Bloggers

* Somewhere In Bangla Blog

* Live it Lively

* In the Middle of Nowhere

* Dhaka

* Shahidul News

* Imperfect | World | 2007

* Cholera in the Time of Love

* Addafication

* The Bangladesh Poet of Impropriety

* Past Present and Future

* Shada Kalo

* Conversations with an Optimist

International bloggers:

* The Moderate Voice

* Within Without

* Amar Akbar Anthony

* Sculpin

* Pickled Politics

* Taylor Mash

* Michael P.F. van der Galiën

Update by Rubel:
"CNN and HRW has gotten the ball rolling. Farooq Sobhan(Bangladesh CTG chief's special envoy) is in the U.S right now, should get be getting a call, if not already. I am also told that this has been elevated to the State dept. Washington Post is going to run a story on this tomorrow."

Update II: Human rights watch has the story:

“We are extremely concerned about Tasneem Khalil’s safety,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “He has been a prominent voice in Bangladesh for human rights and the rule of law, and has been threatened because of that.”

The men did not offer a warrant or any charges, Khalil’s wife said. Using threatening language, they searched the house and confiscated Khalil’s passport, two computers, documents, and two mobile phones.

“It is an emergency; we can arrest anyone,” one of the men said. Another asked if Khalil suffered from any particular physical ailments. They drove Khalil off in a Pajero jeep.

And some harsh words too:

“The Bangladeshi military should be on notice that its actions are being closely watched by the outside world,” Adams said. “Any harm to Tasneem Khalil will seriously undermine the army’s claims to legitimacy and upholding the rule of law.”

Update III: CNN Wire now has the story. The Washington Times publishes the news in their World in Brief section.

Suchinta posts how you can help Tasneem if you are in USA.

Update IV: International Herald Tribune has the story.

Update V: From Drishtipat:
5:50 pm BDT

Diplomatic community official told one of our contacts @ 12 noon “he will be released”. It is now 6 pm, and there is still no word. Many people don’t have internet access as today holiday, so the strategic decision to arrest him night before weekend helped to impose partial news blackout. SMSs still flying, but no new update. Shockingly, still nothing posted on Daily Star or BDNews24, even though they have other breaking news. So they have decided to sit on it. Also note, Reuters quotes Zafar Sobhan, but not Mahfuz Anam– editor of the DS.
I wrote about self censorship in Bangladeshi media a couple of days ago.

Update VI:
Bloggers at Bangla blogging platform "Bandh Bhanger Awaaj" suspended regular postings and declared that they will only write about Tasneem Khalil today.

May 10, 2007

YouTube Video of the Day

A tribute to Bangladesh cricket

Bangladesh vs. India: Live cricket links and ball-by-ball commentary

Within a couple of hours the first one day between India and Bangladesh will start. Millions of fans like me will be watching the game via online live streaming of the match.

Indian Nero Sports, first Cricket only TV channel will telecast the series live. Sky Sports will telecast the matches live for the viewers in Europe.

There are some web links to watch the game online:

1) Via Sopcast: Please download sopcast from here. Then find live video cricket broadcasts of the match from the channels list and click on any one of them.

2) Via TVU: Live Cricket Channel (Bangladesh vs India)
It works Only in Ineternet Explorer. If you don't have TVU download it from here.

3) Live Sports Online: Sopcast and Windows media player links

4) Mufta videos: Sopcast and Windows media player links.

5) Bollywood Music For You: A collection of links.

6)ESPNSTAR: To watch for free from espnstar go to - www.espnstar.com

Right side of the page locate small box that reads LIVE OFF TUBE. Select the matches from the box. Right below box locate LIVE FLASH CRICKET CENTRE and click on it. A new window 'ONLINE CRICKET' Centre will be displayed. Click on where it is displayed 'CLICK TO ENTER'. Under Live Matches, details of all live matches are displayed. Select the match you want to watch and click on the Score Card. New Window will be opened showing the match live.

If you just want score - you need to just click on the scoreboard in the LIVE OFF TUBE WINDOW.

7) Cricinfo provides ball-by-ball commentary.

Looking forward for an exciting game and wishing luck for Bangladesh.

Update: This link is working now.

Cashing on social media

What helps people, helps business. -Leo Burnett, American Marketing expert

David Sasaki of Global Voices writes an investigative report on the "Economics of Social Media Conference". He shows how the new media and web 2.0 contents created by millions of individuals and published for free prompted by humans' trait of socialization are helping some entrepreneurs to cash on.

Some interesting observations by David:
Observers have noticed that internet users like to have one central place for their online profile. For the majority of people, that central place is either Facebook or MySpace. For others, like myself, it’s their personal blog. But the point is, we all want a “digital home.” Widgets than give us a way to import our other online activities (our pictures, music, movies, books) onto our main profile page.

It’s interesting that the question of ethics never entered the conference discussion. There was no question of whether viral/conversational marketing was acceptable or not, the question was how to measure it and what to pay for it.

This wasn’t a blogger’s conference. This was a place for media insiders, most of whom have taken to the net because it’s been good for their careers. Dozens of times throughout the day I heard the annoying use of ‘eyeballs’ to describe the millions of internet users just like you and me who pay for services like Flickr via subscriptions or pay for services like MySpace by creating content which then attracts advertisers.

Which brings us to an entire other level of questions. Is it OK for sites like YouTube, MySpace, Facebook, and WordPress.com to make lots of money for content that they didn’t produce?

A criticism can also be made of Global Voices. Much of the value of the website comes from the unpaid bloggers we quote and translate and the daily contributions from our volunteer authors. While we’ve been wanting to pay those contributing authors for some time now, the money hasn’t yet come from sponsors to make that a reality.

Now anyone can make compelling content - be it text, photography, music, audio, or video - and distribute it in various ways. TV, radio, magazines, and newspapers still have the largest audiences, but the internet, mp3 players, cell phones, and outdoor multimedia displays are gaining leverage as the endpoints of content creation. The people who are making the money are the ones who are situating themselves between the content creators and the content consumers, or, as they see it, between the fingers on a keyboard and the eyes on a screen.
Really an eye opener.

Microlending - the 2.0 concept of Microcredit

Most of us know about Microcredit and how it operates. An institute offers small loans to a group of individuals without collateral and peer pressure and observation secures the proper utilization and return of the money. But what if this becomes more interactive like Web 2.0?

What if a group of individuals finance a small loan to one or more individuals instead of the institute? Prosper, a 15-month-old venture is doing just that in USA combining social networking with online auctions.

Wired News has details:
"Prosper's marketplace is a blend of eBay-like bidding auctions and social networking, and is conceptually related to the emerging world of microcredit.

Wannabe borrowers give Prosper permission to verify their identity and allow the company to access their financial data as collected by Experian, one of the three big credit-scoring agencies.

Prosper then gives the borrower a credit rating and helps match his or her loan request with a number of lenders. A $5,000 loan, for instance, might be funded by 50 people who each lend $100.

Lenders use borrowers' credit scores and other financial data to set interest rates that balance risk and return, while borrowers assemble their loans piecemeal from lenders' offers, giving preference to the lowest interest rates offered to them."
Just look at this instance:- A wife and mom is raising a loan for her daughters wedding. She needs $8000 and got 66% funded by 55 bids (persons) at promised 28.5% per annum return (figures when written).

The only question is what is the security offered by Prosper.
"To keep bad loans from poisoning the well, Prosper blocks borrowers who have defaulted on their loans. Over half the company's engineers work on antifraud measures, according to Witchel, and Prosper insures lenders against money lost due to identity theft.

Borrowers who miss payments on Prosper face the same consequences as they would if they miss a payment with any form of bank credit including the reporting of late payments to the credit bureaus. Borrowers also incur late fees, which are collected by Prosper and passed onto the people that loaned the money."
Prosper says that its the borrowers and lenders who are taking decisions, they are just providing the platform. There give no guarantee that the loan will be repaid. Their suggestion:
The way to ensure a good return on your investment is to diversify your lending—create a standing order to place bids on many listings, and spread your risk across many borrowers. Even if one of your borrowers defaults, the return from your other borrowers will more than make up for the loss.
And how Prosper is financed?
Prosper charges a 1% or 2% loan closing fee each time a loan is funded. In addition, Prosper charges lenders an annual loan servicing fee of 0.5%-1%.
Microcredit is really a revolutionary idea which is prompting these kind of extra-ordinary innovations. The conventional banking will certainly evolve as more consumer friendly in future especially targeting those who have less.

Bicycle woes

Summer is imminent and bicycles are ruling in Berlin. You have to give them priority while you are driving. They will not stop no matter what happens say even if you have to follow one for a long while in a narrow road at 20km per hour. If one rider has to put down his/her feet because of you (other than stopping at a red light) you will be cursed.

I miss Bangladesh where driving is more of a shrewd game and you make the rules! Chris has some interesting observations about driving in Bangladesh.

Picture of the day

Twilight in Berlin

Bangladesh National Cricket Academy is the future of Bangladesh Cricket

Bangladesh National Cricket Academy is a new project of Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) with technical assistance from Cricket Australia to raise the standard of cricket in Bangladesh. They have already got a sponsor for the next five years.

"The concept of a cricket academy was initiated to bridge the gap between the national side and the under-19 team as Bangladesh has become dependent on the youth players for their obvious talent." (Noman Mohammad)

Here are two interviews which will give you an insight into the development of Cricket in Bangladesh under the cricket Academy.

Allister de Winter: Head Coach, BCB National Cricket Academy

Khaled Mahmud Sujon: Ex Bangladesh captain and team operations manager of the Bangladesh National Cricket Academy

May 09, 2007

Press freedom in Bangladesh: Self censorship is the greater evil

Here is an interesting discussion by some renowned journalists of Bangladesh on the occasion of the World Press freedom day organized by Drik. Bangladesh is under a state of emergency and police permission was needed to hold this discussion. What an irony.

Some excerpts:
Probir Sikder: I was victim of terrorism in 2001. I am very confused what should I say about journalism and safety? I was attacked and lost my leg, but when I went on TV we could not mention the name of my attacker. I see these glossy supplements made in newspapers about press freedom, with advertisement money, what should I say? It seems the advertiser is more important than my safety.

Mainul Khan of Reporter San Frontieres: There is now a trend of self censorship. We have to stop censoring ourselves.

Tipu Sultan: [had arms crushed by Joina Hazari’s men] These last 3 months we see a new trend. We know that people have been told not to publish some kind of news. These things are increasing, but invisible execot to those in news management.

Tanvir Siddiqui: What about the MNCs that own the press. What about cell phone companies and the injustice they do on us. When I started talking about the injustice they do, these outrageous bills ripping us off, I complained about it, widely loudly. But my media friends cannot report about this. We get 5 lakh taka of ads, how can we jeopardize this. So this is another kind of censorship.

Syed Mahbub Morshed/(Naya Digantha): We are not hostages to government, we are hostages to business. We are told what to write, and if we try to write against it we will lose jobs here, and won’t get jobs elsewhere either.

Khaled Muhiuddin (BDNews24.com): Who did Hasina give her reaction to when she was offloaded from British Airways. She talked to BBC and Al Jazeera. We posted that news, we received 25 calls from an army colonel, and finally after 26th call we took it off. We get these calls, they are always from Colonel so and so, and they say we don’t want these things.
So it is true that self censorship is happening for many reasons.

I think citizen journalism or blogs have a greater role to play in Bangladesh. As the online readership of the major newspapers are growing so should the readerships of Bangladeshi blogs should increase as we have seen that Bloggers disseminate views and information without such limitation. Whether the news is authenticated or credible that is another issue.

I am concluding with an interesting observation from the discussion-
Tipu Sultan: Actually the government is having high level meetings right now to figure out how they block websites. What they call “anti-state” websites or “non friendly” media. So they are coming and they will spend a lot of money to get the best technology so they can block it.
An excellent rebuttal against this threat from fellow blogger Asif in his blog:
They're not banning ALL websites, just those that carry "anti-state" rhetoric. Whew, that's good. 'Cause everyone knows THIS website loves the state but criticizes every government for being the same, boorish, narrow-minded, colonial, paternalistic, patriarchal, condescending, exclusive oligarchy as the last one!
Amen to that spirit. History tells us blocking the blogs never worked.

May 08, 2007

Bangladesh India Cricket Series: Battle of Emotions

Bangladesh is a new cricketing nation. The passion for cricket is growing from the mid Nineteen Nineties after Bangladesh stepped into the big arena of cricket. Whereas India has more than a hundred years of cricketing history. It has also won the world cup and have produced many cricket legends in the World.

After the loss of Indian team to Bangladesh in the recent World Cup people reacted very emotionally. Actually it prompted India's exit from the World cup in the first round and reduced some excitement in the following rounds because there are billions of cricket fans who love India. On the other hand it was a great moral booster for Bangladesh although they have beaten India earlier. But Indian fans see this opportunity to show Bangladesh where India stands. Bangladesh is still two ranks below India in the official LG ICC rankings. To add a pinch of salt in the wounds another unofficial ranking showed India below Bangladesh.

Now India is in Bangladesh for a tour dubbed the 'revenge tour'. Although Indian captain ruled out the revenge part of it you already see emotions flying around. Every tips and tricks are being discussed. No doubt both India and Bangladesh team will be under pressure.

Here is the match schedule:

(via South Asia Biz)

Indian Nero Sports, first Cricket only TV channel (it can only happen in India) will telecast the series live. Sky Sports will telecast the matches live for the viewers in Europe.

I hope to see some good game of cricket.

Not aid but technologies fight poverty

You don't often see great ideas to reduce poverty. Here is a great video which just shows the background of GrameenPhone in Bangladesh, which boast to reduce poverty with connecting poor people who had no access to telecommunication (I am ignoring the criticisms against it, which is a broader issue).

"Connectivity increases productivity and reduces poverty"

- Iqbal Quadir, founder of Gonofone and GrameenPhone. He is currently the Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Program in Development Entrepreneurship, Senior Research Associate at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, and the founding co-editor of Innovations: Technology, Governance, Globalization, a journal published by MIT Press. (Wikipedia)

Via On:Philanthropy

Today's Links

May 07, 2007

Putting Bangladesh on the frontline of climate change

"About 150 million people are crammed into this overcrowded country, making for a density of 1,000 people for every square kilometer. The country is only 40 percent the size of Germany." - reports Matthias Gebauer, a German consultant. He writes a series on the dangers of the effects of the Global warming in Bangladesh in Der Spiegel Online.

However if you read his reports (link below) minutely you will see that it tells about rampant poverty in the Char areas, new found floodplain sediment islands in river deltas. These are located in an active river basin and are subject to erosion and accretion. They are the shelter of some of the country's poorest people, who cannot afford to live elsewhere and try to fight for their lives here.
"The island has no electricity, and Shahidul has only heard of the existence of telephones."
This is a sharp contrast to the countries record cellphone growth. The infrastructure like roads and electricity are bestowed upon after a long time when these lands have sufficient inhabitants and settles down.

And the truth if anyone can get:
"Subject to nature's whims, the farmers have just been able to feed their families on the hard-earned returns of their work. It is enough for a daily bowl of dal -- a yellowish porridge of lentils -- onions and a little rice. A piece of meat or fish is added once a week. In the evenings, the exhausted farmer gets one or two packages of paan, a mixture of nutmeg and lime rolled up in a green leaf. This local drug is relaxing and has turned Shahidul's teeth blood red. Besides, he says, you forget your problems; as if on cue, his friends grin and show their own sets of red teeth."
Well Paan is rather a digestive than a drug and you don't always need a drug to find happiness amongst extremest poverty.

Yes poverty is written all over the articles. Netherlands can build proper flood protections having a lot of its surface areas under see level. Why Bangladesh cannot provide a lot of protection to its oversized population is because of poverty.

According to Matthias:
"The average Bangladeshi produces just 178 kilograms of carbon dioxide per year -- a mere drop in the bucket compared to the 21 tons per capita released annually by Americans."
Still they will be the first ones to face the adverse effects of the Global warming mainly because they don't have enough means to protect them.

Climate change is of course a vital issue. But poverty reduction is a far more greater issue in Bangladesh. And I think the world should also put that in perspective.

There are many international organizations engaged in Char development projects (1, 2, 3). I don't know about the successes of the projects. But I met one consultant working on one such project who commented "If these NGOs/IOs could just distribute the millions of dollars funds directly to the poor people rather than spending on consultants, researches and ineffective strategies, there could be a significant reduction in poverty."

Related reading:

1) On the Front Lines of Climate Change.

2) The Salty Taste of Global Warming.

Technorati icon

May 03, 2007

Picture of the day

Moby Dick on Lake Wannsee

May 02, 2007

A freedom fighter's tale

Bangladesh liberation war is an epic if every fighter tells their stories. And not often you get the chance to read a real freedom fighter's story online.

Shahzaman Mozumder is a top IT executive who received Bir Protik award for his gallantry in the 1971 Liberation war. He is also a blogger and has starting posting his book about his experience as a member of the Mukti Bahini (freedom fighter) in 1971 . Read his stories how he become a freedom fighter and proceeded on to liberate the country. Amazing!

Some facts about Bangladesh

A VSO volunteer compiles today's statistics on Bangladesh (source: UNICEF, UN MDG, UNDP, World Bank). Some quoted here with my comments in parentheses:

… 100 children died from diseases relating to a lack of clean drinking water (Recent heatwave is responsible)

… 3 people were killed extrajudiciarly by the Rapid Action Battalion in ‘crossfire’ incidents (No comment)

… the caretaker government arrested 1000 people with no hope of trial (No comment)

… 5 children were killed in road traffic accidents (In a nation of 140 million people figure out the percentage and compare with other nations)

… 30,000 new Bangladeshis were born (ditto)

… 2,000 of them will have died on the same day (ditto)

… 120 of their mothers also died (ditto)

… 85% of people earned less than $2 ($2 equals 140 Taka more than the daily minimum wage of Bangladesh. In rural area people can sustain with much lower income)

… half of all children under five remained malnourished (Because reducing poverty is being neglected in countries politics)

… $5.5 million of national debt was paid off (Still more left but Bangladesh is paying back)

… 160 women and girls were illegally trafficked out of the country to become sex workers in India (This is a Global problem)

… 75 million people did not have a toilet to use (I doubt the statistics. What defines a toilet here? I may ask. In rural areas people use makeshift ones which are of course not hygienic and are not deemed a toilet in the statistics)

… 6 million people were more than 1 kilometer from any form of water supply (Water water everywhere but not any drop to drink)

… 80,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide were emitted (US emission in 2005 7147.2 million metric tonnes)

"If you get all the facts, your judgment can be right; if you don't get all the facts, it can't be right."

YouTube Video of the Day

Made in Bangladesh

Hat Tip: Where am I wearing?

My first podcast attempt

I submitted a story in the BBC Outlook which is promoting citizen journalism efforts. You can listen to it from here. Seek for the second story in Monday's edition, which starts from 12:25 minutes.

Here is a text version of the piece.

After listening to the piece (they have stripped the background Music) I think I should have done better. :(

Orang Bangla

Approximately 350,000 Bangladeshi labor migrants, locally known as "Orang Bangla", a derogatory slang, serve in Malaysia. Malaysia resumed manpower import from Bangladesh with the recruitment of some 50,000 skilled and unskilled workers starting late last year. Shortage of flights and various procedural flaws are hampering their transfer to Malaysia as per a Daily Star editorial.

So actually what the most of them do? They provide unskilled labor in manufacturing, construction, plantations and cleaning/manual labor works in the city. A study shows the problems they face:

1) Many workers are not paid for the extra hour they work.
2) Payment for Work Permit, Levy, and EPF: For work-permit and levy, each Bangladeshi worker has to pay between RM 2,300 to 3,000 a year. On the top of these, each has to pay 11 percent of their salaries to Employment Provident Fund (EPF). Paying all these as well other living costs in Malaysia leave them with a very little or no saving. Workers can claim their EPF money after their work tenure; however, as they reported, harsh rules, bureaucratic complexity and long procedures make it almost uncertain for them to get money.
3) Harassment by Police and Local Thugs: The fear of police and local thugs is very common among Bangladeshi workers. Despite having legal documents, some Bangladeshi workers complained, they face harassment from police.
4) Compensation and Treatment: Some Bangladeshi workers lost valuable parts of their bodies while working, but no compensation was given to them.

And the most crucial thing: estimates show that workers spend around 80% of their income in Malaysia, and thereby contribute to, and keep revitalizing, local economy.

According to the same study there are more than 30,000 Bangladeshi students studying in Malaysia, a great education market for Malaysian universities. More than a thousand Bangladeshis, applied for "The Malaysia My Second Home" program, and each candidate will deposit 3,000,000 Malaysian Ringgit (RM) to Malaysian government.

So you see these people are contributing a lot to the Malaysian economy and still face bullying and maltreatment from the local community.

A Malaysian Blogger explains:

"BANGLA, does that word mean anything to you? Or is it just something you shout to call that nameless guy from your toilet to scrape off that dried cow shit from underneath your car? Well for those who dont know shit, this blog explains the life of a Bangla."

Read the rest and you will understand.

May 01, 2007

Quote of the day

"A blog isn't a publication. It's a person"

- Jeremy Wagstaff while discussing how to really read Blogs

Breaking News: Serial Bombs in Bangladesh.. again

BDNews24 reports:

A series of bombs went off at Dhaka, Sylhet and Chittagong railway stations Tuesday morning, spreading panic among commuters. A rickshawpuller was injured in the Chittagong blast. All the bombs exploded between 6:45am and 7:00am.

Aluminium plates inscribed with militant slogans purported to be from an al-Qaeda network were found at the bomb sites.

This seems only a sign by the militants that they are here. The Chief of Police also confirms that militants are active in the country.

Journalist Ahmede Hussain has detailed round up and international press reactions. From his Blog:

Jadid Al-Qaeda, an unknown group believed to be linked to Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda network has planted three bombs at three major railway terminals across the country early today (May 1, 2007).

In a message inscribed in one of the bombs that did not take off, the group "has ordered everyone working with Non Government Organisations (NGO) to leave their job". "... If Hazrat (Prophet) Mohammad is not declared the superman of the world by May 10, all non-governmental organisations will be blown up,"

One leaflet found said: "We are ready to die" and another called to cut ties with the Ahmadiyas. Muslim Bangladesh's Ahmadiya community is frequently targeted by extremists in the majority Sunni community who have called on the government to pass a law declaring them "non-Muslim." It also says all 'Kadianis' must recognize Prophet Muhammad (SM) or face death.

The BBC's John Sudworth in Dhaka says that the authorities are investigating whether Jadid al-Qaeda is a new group, or a manifestation of a hard line group that already exists. "We are puzzled over the motives (of those who planted the bombs). But they dared to take the risk," said another police officer.

The law adviser is looking at the incidents of bombing as acts of sabotage against the caretaker government. He however said inquiries are underway.

Photo Credit: Retuers

Drishtipat Blog reports:

What Kind of terrorist unit inscribes message on aluminium plate? Did they do it at home, or in a shop? If in a shop, isn’t there high chance of discovery? My theory, once again Bangladesh being used as a chess board for puppetmasters. Who benefits?

News came very slowly. I SMS’ed 15 people, only 2 had heard the news before. Partially it’s because maybe a holiday, and people are not checking the news.

Dhakashohor Blog has more updates and pictures:

Daily Star reports pretty much the same times of explosion as above but calls it "near-simultaneous". We have a lot to be worried about when it comes to this sort of things, but needless panic mongering is not going to help!

Dhaka: 6:45 am
Syhlet: 7:15 am
Chittagong: 9:30 am

Before we blame "foreign interests", it's much more productive to look ourselves in the mirror and ask: what are we doing wrong? These blasts are at best gimmicks. A sort of publicity stunt for a very dangerous message. However, they do point to that very awful trend where the whole concept of civil society and NGO are being reified (as discussed in DP and on this blog a few days back). Aren't there Islamic NGOs active in Bangladesh too?

Rajputro Blog says:

Many Bangladeshis were travelling out of Dhaka taking advantage of a two-day public holiday for May Day and a Buddhist religious festival on Wednesday. Since friday and saturday are weekly holidays, if you take leave on thursday you'll make it a five day holiday. But now people are afraid of making a move.

Intelligence groups last month alerted the government that Islamist militants were regrouping after the execution of the militant leaders of the outlawed Islamist group, Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen.

Expat Blogger Gabrielle comments:

Unfortunately these kind of incidents are not that uncommon in this part of the world and life moves on as usual.

'My thoughts and Ideas' says:

The Caretaker Government of Bangladesh cannot afford to ignore this alarming and most serious crisis. They must take concrete actions against the militancy. We need a "Zero Tolerance- No Excuse Policy" against militancy.

This has come in a time when the government is trying to ban student politics and people are voicing there opinion about banning religious politics.

Related reading: Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh: Militant Islamist Terror

Picture of the day

Its swan season!

(Somewhere in Lake Tegel)